Verulamium: It Gets Personal

Every once in a while, I feel the need to return to my art history roots. I was thinking about this today and wondering exactly what that means. What are my art history roots? The first art history I studied was that of the Italian Renaissance, like so many of us, but I’d say that my roots actually go back to the year I spent in England when I was 10 years old. I think that even at that point, it was in my blood. It was certainly already in my environment: My dad was a historian who always included art in the classes that he taught, and my mom was also an art lover, particularly interested in the Impressionists. So when we went to England, we hit as many cathedrals, museums, and historical sites as possible. One that really sticks in my mind is Verulamium — Roman ruins that were so nearby, we went there repeatedly.

Verulamium, Roman Amphitheatre, 140 CE, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England

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What a Difference Color Can Make! Prokudin-Gorskii’s Photos of Samarkand

I recently learned about these photographs taken in the Russian Empire between 1905 and 1915.  Not being overly interested in the Russian Empire (Not that it’s not interesting! It’s not you, Russian Empire, it’s me.), I didn’t take much notice, until I saw this, of the Bibi Khanym Mosque in Samarkand (in Uzbekistan):

Bibi-Khanym mosque (late 14th century). Dome from the southeast side. Samarkand. Photo by Sergeĭ Mikhaĭlovich Prokudin-Gorskiĭ, taken between 1905-15. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Prokudin-Gorskii Collection Sergeĭ Mikhaĭlovich

And this of the Gur-e Amir Mausoleum, also in Samarkand, where Timur (Tamerlane) is buried:

Entrance into the Gur-Emir mosque (late 14th cent, actually a mausoleum). Samarkand. Sergeĭ Mikhaĭlovich Prokudin-Gorskiĭ, photo taken between 1905-15. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Prokudin-Gorskii Collection

Are they or are they not stunning?  And it gets better!  The photographer, Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii, was an early practitioner of color photography. (Read all about it here.)

Dome of the Gur-Emir mosque from eastern side, 14th century. Samarkand. Photo by Prokudin-Gorskii, taken between 1905-15. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Prokudin-Gorskii Collection

AND he traveled around the Russian Empire with a darkroom in a rail car, provided by Tsar Nicholas II, who also supported other aspects of Prokudin-Gorskii’s journeys. Continue reading

Low Key Treasures: The Cross of the Scriptures and Ogham at Clonmacnoise, Ireland

The monastery of Clonmacnoise (best monastery name ever, by the way) in County Offaly, Ireland was founded in the 6th century CE, though the cross that I want to show you, the Cross of the Scriptures, or King Flann’s Cross, is from 900 CE.  Fortunately, the cross has been moved inside, though a replica stands outside on the Clonmacnoise grounds among the ruins you see here:

Clonmacnoise (monastery), County Offaly, Ireland

Clonmacnoise (monastery), County Offaly, Ireland, on the River Shannon

Although the high crosses of Ireland weren’t necessarily grave markers, it is thought that the Cross of the Scriptures did mark a grave (in its original location), that of High King Flann, and was commissioned by Abbot Colman (we’ll return to this).  The original Cross of the Scriptures, covered with scenes from the life of Christ, is now inside the Interpretative Centre:

Cross of the Scriptures, Clonmacnoise (monastery), County Offaly, Ireland, 900 CE

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